Hydrological processes change from the impacts of climate variability and human activities. Runoff in the upper reaches of the Hun-Taizi River basin, which is mainly covered by forests in northeast China, decreased from 1960 to 2006. The data used in this study were based on runoff records from six hydrological stations in the upper reaches of the Hun-Taizi River basin. Nonparametric Mann–Kendall statistic was used to identify change trends and abrupt change points and consequently analyze the change characteristics in hydrological processes. The abrupt change in the annual runoff in most subcatchments appeared after 1975. Finally, the effects of climate change and land cover change on water resources were identified using regression analysis and a hydrology model. Results of the regression analysis suggest that the correlation coefficients between precipitation and runoff prior to the abrupt change were higher compared with those after the abrupt change. Moreover, using hydrology model analysis, the water yield was found to increase because of the decrease in forest land. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.